While most of this week's Torah portion is a listing of the Jewish legal code, the last chapter describes Moses' experiences at the base of Mt. Sinai. This small chapter discusses the events which took place before the giving of the Torah.
While most of this week's Torah portion is a listing of the Jewish legal code, the last chapter describes Moses' experiences at the base of Mt. Sinai. This small chapter discusses the events which took place before the giving of the Torah. When the Jewish people heard about G-d's Torah, they proclaimed "Na'aseh v'nishma we will do and we will hear." This well-known phrase helped us create a very close relationship with Hashem. By affirming that we will do before even hearing what the Torah demanded of us, the Jews demonstrated to Hashem that they had complete and total faith in Him. They knew that Hashem would never demand the impossible of them so they did not question otherwise.
In today's day and age, we find ourselves in a pitiful state of exile. For most of us, it probably does not even feel like exile. We live in an affluent society with finely-furnished spacious homes, cars for every member of the family, lightning fast computers, cell phones, car phones, video phones, and more. Seems like "exile" would sell nicely in a late night infomercial. However, when we observe the world around us more intimately, it becomes clear that this same society is rapidly destroying the attributes which make the Jewish people so special especially our attribute of trust of our fellow Man.
While the model Jew is always concerned about helping out the next guy, modern America has created a contrasting "each man for himself" environment. Society demands that we invariably look for "the catch," and assume that people whom we meet are out to lie to us, cheat us, or steal from us. We are no longer willing to purchase things unless we know they can be returned. We no longer have confidence in our doctors, lawyers, sales people, auto mechanics, insurance companies, credit card companies, long distance companies, etc. I recently met a guy on a plane who told me that when a long distance company called him up and tried to persuade him to switch to their service, he lied and told them that he was employed by the competition. Otherwise, he said, it is impossible to get them off the phone.
Must we lie to survive here? Perhaps the greatest example of our inability to trust one another is the common practice to sign a pre-nuptial agreement before a wedding just in case you can not trust your spouse. Sadly, the distrust that exile has branded us with seems to apply even toward our relationship with Hashem. We no longer appear to be a nation shouting in unison, "We will do and we will hear." Rather, we have begun to scrutinize the Torah and question the purpose and meaning of the commandments. Many of us accept upon ourselves only those commandments which we can "understand" or those which do not seem too difficult. Others, we justify, are just impossible.
Exile is a jungle and we must fight to survive. Our corrupt surroundings are camouflaged by monetary wealth and glamour. When we are blinded by the shimmer, we can easily be drained of our Jewish qualities. Part of our goal in this world is to make it a better place. Let the telemarketers, infomercials, and door-to-door salesmen be reminders to us that we are in exile, but do not let them harden our hearts and rob us of our attribute of trust. Instead, we must protect our Torah by accepting it and teaching it to our children. Teach them to love and to trust so they can act to improve this world, to be a shining light unto the nations.
Elly Berlin is studying the philosophy, science and art of chiropractic at Life University in Atlanta.
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